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Largest ever global air sampling maps fungal spread

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MUSHROOMS and other fungi spread their spores in a more localised way than once thought and more similar to how animals and plant species migrate, new research has found.

Published in the journal Nature, it is the largest ever global air sampling project and analyses how the climate affects the growth and spread of fungi.

The study used air samplers to collect airborne fungal spores at 47 locations on every continent apart from Antarctica over a two-year period.

Most fungi spread by releasing airborne spores and detection of these spores with air sampling can tell us when they are released and how far they travel.

Mapping of the global distribution of fungi can establish the ecological ranges of rare or threatened species to be observed. This allows us to detect changes in these patterns caused by climate change or habitat destruction.

It also means the spread of fungi which are potentially harmful to humans or crop plants can be monitored.

Fungi are essential to how ecosystems work but they are mostly invisible to the naked eye, so the factors determining their distribution and activity remain poorly understood.

It is estimated that there could be up to five million different species but most of these remain unknown.

For decades scientists debated which factors drive the distribution of fungi and other microbes.

It was originally believed that the long distance dispersal of fungi in the air meant they could reach all parts of the planet, but would only grow in suitable conditions.

This contrasts with animals and plants whose spread is more strictly limited by mountain ranges, seas and other geographical barriers.

However, the new research paper shows that the spread of fungi, like animals and plants, is determined by climatic factors, and that they too are distributed locally, not only in where they grow but in how their spores are spread.

Professor Gareth Griffith from the Department of Life Sciences at Aberystwyth University said: “Sampling of airborne DNA in the way we have for this study is a huge step forward in the understanding of the how fungi grow and disperse in different parts of the world. Overall, our results suggest that the factors that affect where microbes live and grow are similar to those determining the distribution of plants and animals.

“The very diverse kingdom of fungi follows globally highly predictable patterns. These patterns resemble those described for other major groups of organisms. This research makes a major contribution to that long-standing debate.”

The study found that species of airborne fungus found in different regions was most strongly affected by the mean annual air temperature of the site, with diversity and numbers increasing from the poles towards the Equator.

The results also confirms that temperature influences fungal reproduction and that spore release peaks when the wind speeds are high.

Professor Gareth Griffith from Aberystwyth University added:“Our results highlight the role of temperature as an underlying driver of fungal dispersal, with fungal diversity increasing with warmer climates and more spores being released on warmer days. This finding suggests that global climate change, and generally warming climates, will have a major role in restructuring fungal communities.

“Although previous large-scale studies of soil fungi have found clear effects of the climate on community composition, the fact that air temperature explains most of the variation in the distributions of fungi in our data is striking.”

Speaking about the significance of the air sampling, Academy Research Fellow Nerea Abrego, from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, said:

“Air is a real treasure trove for nature research; it is full of DNA from plants, fungi, bacteria, insects, mammals and other organisms. This knowledge is essential not only to understand where and when different fungal species thrive, but also to predict their fate under the ongoing global change.

“One particularly interesting subject for further research is a more detailed review of the sequences for fungi that are important to humans. These include fungal diseases of humans, crops and production animals, as well as fungi that indicate the progress of the loss of nature and the weakening of natural ecosystem processes.”

The Global Spore Sampling Project was funded through a number of bodies, including the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Education

College to launch Energy Transition Skills Hub supported by Shell UK

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE says it is delighted to announce that it is working with Shell UK to develop an Energy Transition Skills Hub on the College site in Haverfordwest.

The Energy Transition Skills Hub is currently one of three supported by Shell UK and will focus on providing people with the skills and knowledge to find employment in renewable and low-carbon energy projects through an immersive and interactive learning experience.

The facility aims to train 600 individuals by July 2026, providing Pembrokeshire and West Wales with a pool of talent that will have knowledge and experience of control systems needed for projects such as offshore floating wind farms and the Haven hydrogen power plants.

With renewables and low-carbon technology high on the agenda, both locally and nationally, the facility comes at an important time for the energy sector.

The state-of-the-art onsite Control Room will enable training in control systems for a wide range of sectors including: Offshore Floating Wind; Hydrogen Plant; Solar PV; Tidal/Marine and gas power stations.

The programme is supported by Shell UK and the Swansea Bay City Deal Skills and Talent Fund and responds directly to the needs of local companies as well as those from further afield who are looking to invest in the region. The Hub, which is scheduled to open this summer, will also support the local community and schools by giving them the opportunity to understand more about how energy transition will impact the way we live and work in the future.

Arwyn Williams, Head of Faculty at Pembrokeshire College states: “We are delighted to be working with Shell UK on the development of the Control Room training facility. Many of our learners and those looking to upskill will benefit from understanding more about the control systems through practical experience. Having the capability to train people for emerging sectors such as Offshore Floating Wind and Hydrogen will give them a real advantage when the opportunities become available.”

Anthony Harte, Shell UK Social Impact Manager, says: “We are pleased to be working closely with Pembrokeshire College on the development of the Energy Transition Skills Hub. This will be one in a series of hubs across Britain that Shell UK is investing in, with a view to help upskill and train the workforce of the future. Shell UK ‘s Skills Transition Programme aims to help 15,000 people into jobs, with a focus on the energy transition by 2035. We want as many people as possible to benefit from the energy system of the future, so that the transition is an opportunity for all.”

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Education

Successful handover of Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro

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THE HANDOVER of the new Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro in Pembroke has been completed, with Gareth Rees, Project Manager with Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd handing the keys to the new school to Executive Headteacher Dafydd Hughes on July 8.

Following the award of the contract for the design and build of the new school, Morgan Sindall commenced work on the site in March 2023.

Rob Williams, Operations Director for Morgan Sindall said that it had been a privilege to work on such a landmark project, the school being the first in Pembrokeshire to be delivered meeting stringent Net Zero Carbon requirements.

He said: “It was brilliant to be a part of the project handover this week, it’s a fantastic school in such a beautiful location. We are very proud of the project and thank the Pembrokeshire County Council team for both the opportunity to deliver such a great project and for such an enjoyable collaborative approach to design and deliver a very sustainable Net Zero Carbon school with fantastic facilities. It really felt we formed one team. A big thank you to everyone involved.”

The Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro building project has been funded by the Welsh Government through its Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, and Pembrokeshire County Council, and will open in September 2024.

The school will provide full day-care for up to 36 children aged 0-11 years, a 30 place nursery, and capacity for up to 210 pupils (Reception to Year 6). Cllr. Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, said that he was delighted that this important project had been completed.

Cllr Woodham added: “This project represents a significant milestone in the Council’s delivery of its Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and I am very grateful that the hard work of officers and contractors has resulted in a new school which has been delivered on budget and on time, and which will be in a position to admit pupils for the first time in September 2024. As the Cabinet member with responsibility for Education and the Welsh language, I look forward to visiting Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro during the autumn and seeing the school in operation at first hand.”

In receiving the keys to the new school, Mr Hughes said that Morgan Sindall, working alongside Pembrokeshire County Council’s project team, had produced an excellent educational facility and that it represented an exciting new chapter for Welsh medium education in Pembrokeshire.

“I know that the children who will be attending this school will greatly benefit from a truly 21st century learning environment, and those that will transfer from the Welsh stream at Ysgol Gelli Aur / Golden Grove School are extremely excited at the prospect of continuing their education at Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro. Those children have been frequent visitors to the site during the construction period, and along with staff, have been welcomed wholeheartedly by the contractors.”

An open evening is being held at the school on Monday 15th July at 4.30pm, and this will be an opportunity for the local community to visit the school, and for prospective parents and their children to view the excellent facilities.

Pictured above: Representatives from Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd and Pembrokeshire County Council’s project team, with Executive Headteacher Mr Dafydd Hughes and Cllr. Aaron Carey, Chair of the Temporary Governing Body of Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro, on the occasion of the handover of the school from contractor to the Council.

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Education

B-wbl Consortium Celebrates Outstanding Achievements at Annual Apprenticeship and JGW+ Learner Awards

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On Friday 7th June, the B-wbl Consortium hosted their prestigious Annual Apprenticeship and JGW+ Learner Awards at the Tower Hotel in Swansea. The event celebrated the remarkable success, dedication, and high-level skills of learners completing Apprenticeship and Jobs Growth Wales+ (JGW+) programmes within the B-wbl Consortium Provider Network.

The evening was a grand recognition of the hard work and achievements of the learners, with 25 outstanding individuals shortlisted across nine distinct categories. The winners on the night were:

– JGW+ Engagement Learner of the Year: Rebecca Jones (Coleg Sir Gar)

– JGW+ Advancement Learner of the Year: Megan Elliot (PRP Training)

– JGW+ Employability Learner of the Year (Special Recognition Award): Cerys Dean (PRP Training)

– Welsh Language Award: Katie Topliss (TSW Training)

– Inspiration Use of Welsh Language: Ahmed Abdul Rahim (Cymru Care Training)

– Foundation Apprentice of the Year: Haidar Sharr (Pembrokeshire College)

– Level 3 Apprentice of the Year: Gemma Phillips (HB Training)

– Higher Apprentice of Year: Steven Hughes (TSW Training)

– Tomorrow’s Talent: Daniel Goddard (Pembrokeshire College)

Foundation Apprentice of the Year Haidar Sharr expressed his delight at winning the award, “I was delighted and honoured to receive the B-wbl Award.  I have greatly appreciated the educational opportunities I have experienced in Wales and they will allow me to repay the welcome I have received by contributing to the economic growth of the area through my role as an engineer in a local manufacturing company.  I wish every success to my fellow students at Pembrokeshire College.”

Haidar joined the College from Syria in 2017 and on arrival spoke very little English. Fast forward and he is now fluent in both English and Welsh. Alongside his apprenticeship at Consort in Milford Haven, he has his own middle eastern catering service that he manages on the weekend.

Tomorrow’s Talent winner Daniel Goddard joined in celebrating his achievement, “I am delighted to have won this award. Helping young people achieve their prospects and dreams is vital along with raising their self-esteem and worth and that is and always has been my focus. Hopefully I can inspire them to reach those goals and show them anything is possible.”

The awards were a testament to the learners’ commitment to their personal and professional development. The ceremony highlighted the crucial role of apprenticeships and training programmes in fostering talent and providing valuable skills to the workforce.

“The second B-wbl Awards Ceremony was a fantastic success, showcasing the fantastic achievement of many learners. The consortium delivers training to over 5000 apprentices and JGW+ trainees, spread across 17 out of the 22 local authorities in Wales. It is a great event to acknowledge the work of the learners and staff and the support from families and employers. We wish all our learners every success for the future,” said Dave Evans, Assistant Principal at Pembrokeshire College.

“The B-wbl Awards evening was a wonderful opportunity to hear about the incredible achievements and success stories of our learners. They are all an inspiration and a credit to their families, friends, employers, assessors, and providers. We couldn’t be prouder of them,” added Berni Tyler, Director of Consortium.

“We are incredibly proud of all the learners who have shown exceptional dedication and skill throughout their Apprenticeship and JGW+ programmes,” added a spokesperson for the B-wbl Consortium. “Their achievements are a reflection of the high-quality training and support provided by our network, and we are delighted to celebrate their success.”

The event was attended by learners, their families, training providers, and key stakeholders from across the region. It served not only as a celebration of individual accomplishments but also as an inspiration for future learners to strive for excellence in their educational and career pursuits.

The B-wbl Consortium extends heartfelt congratulations to all the winners and nominees and looks forward to continuing to support the growth and development of learners across Wales.

To find out more please visit www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

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